State lawmakers unanimously approved a pilot program for a hybrid domestic violence and drug court in Bexar County during the last legislative session. The intention is for the court to provide education and trauma-informed services to address the root causes of domestic violence.
But lawmakers didn’t provide funding for the program, so Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, who is spearheading the initiative, has to find the funds.
“The governor signed our bill into law, but the message was clear: It’s a local problem, get some local funding,” Gonzalez said at a Saturday morning press conference.
Bexar County has some of the highest number of domestic violence incidents in the state of Texas and, from 2015 to 2017, the County saw the number of domestic violence-related homicides double, according to a report from the Texas Council on Family Violence.
More than 96 percent of those charged with domestic violence-related crimes were also involved in drug- or alcohol-related crimes, according to data cited by Gonzalez.
The court will need $1 million to operate over the next two years, Gonzalez said. None of that money has been raised yet, but the judge hopes to work with officials from the City and County during their budget sessions to secure some money for the court.
If the court begins operations, the Therapeutic Justice Foundation will take the lead on creating individual treatment plans that will provide psychoeducation, trauma-informed services, and better access to resources. The program will also conduct a violence assessment that will determine the risk of future violent behaviors.
The actions of the hybrid court will be a way to “get to the behavior” that underlies domestic violence, Gonzalez said.
Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2) shared a personal experience Saturday morning as proof of the need to address substance abuse when talking about preventing domestic violence.
In 2001, Andrews-Sullivan walked out of her home with her four children, leaving behind an abusive husband. She later filed a restraining order, but fled to Houston to put more space between her family and spouse, she said.
Andrews-Sullivan’s husband followed her to Houston and threatened her life before taking his own. Drugs played a role in Andrews-Sullivan’s husband’s story, and in the lives of other domestic violence offenders, the councilwoman said.
“Domestic violence is only the symptom, but the source starts with what you put into your body,” she said.
The councilwoman called on the City to support the court, describing it as a way to make a real difference in the lives of her District 2 residents.
She also announced support for a domestic violence commission that is intended to be more community-driven than the already existing task force comprised of prosecutors. Council will take up discussions about the commission by October, Andrews-Sullivan said.
The City of San Antonio will soon embark on a comprehensive study of domestic violence that is meant to inform and enhance the efforts of the City and County.